Photograph by Sabine Bannard @_housefrau
I am a girl guide back from camp, reluctant to wash the campfire out of my hair. Well, that’s how I feel after four nights spent at Moorabinda Station shearers’ quarters for the Daily Plenty Workshop Cookbook Creation hosted by Annabelle Hickson of The Dailys website.
It was my third visit in 12 months to Moorabinda, at Bonshaw in the Dumaresq Valley between Tenterfield and Inverell. I was there to lead a session on writing and help out with styling, props supply, washing and drying up and whatever was asked of me.
One of the blessings of poor mobile reception in the country is that on the way to Moorabinda, coverage drops out after leaving Inverell. If the wind blows in the right direction your phone might ding, registering a random incoming SMS, but attempts to call out result in white noise for the recipient.
The knowledge that you cannot send or receive emails, SMS, internet or social media gives you the freedom to be present like it’s the 1980s. There are no heads down checking phone screens. Our ubiquitous phones are refreshingly absent for the duration of the workshop. Instead our group of 11 students and eight tutors and caterers fast become friends over a candlelight welcome dinner, leisurely breakfasts on the shearers’ quarters verandah, and a riverside picnic.
Our aim is to style and photograph a 72-page section of a cookbook. Reading the schedule I am daunted. On day one photographer Lean Timms and I make mulled wine for three intimate student groups of three to four to photograph the process and a hero shot.
On day two our group of three is to photograph three recipes: whole roasted pumpkin salad with sesame seeds, soft shell yabbies and potato chips with anchovy aioli, and smokey salmon with harissa.
Our campfire station is physical. Hammer in hand, chef Sarah Glover nails harissa painted salmon fillets to planks of red cedar, before leaning them to smoke by the campfire. Pumpkins of different sizes and varieties are nested in coals to char. Mandolined potatoes and soft-shelled yabbies are deep fried in hot oil before being drained in a wire basket on newspaper, beside aioli and a beer from New England Brewing Company.
The grand finale is worthy of a standing ovation. Sarah lifts the blackened pumpkins out of the fire and onto a timber bench. She flattens the row of pumpkins, laughing and smiling like a little kid at her handy work. Serving is simple. The pumpkins are drizzled with a tahini and grapeseed dressing and sprinkled with sesame seeds, and forks added in situ.
I’ll keep you posted when our cookbook is complete. That is if I can lever myself out of the kitchen, where I will be cooking from its contents. (Postscript: The Daily Plenty Cookbook e-book link, including 10 recipes may be viewed here).
Thank you for your amazing company and talent Annabelle Hickson @thedailys, Luisa Brimble @luisabrimble, Lean Timms @leanandmeadow, Caitlin Melling @caitlinmelling, Sarah Glover, @misssarahglover, Jane Grylls @thedomesticscientist, Somer Watson @somerof78, Jane Henry @janehenry071, Gillian Bell @gillianbellcake, Rosie Fairbairn-Watt, Flore Vallery_Radot @theflosho, Sam Klomp @thebotanicalkitchen, Ilona Glastonbury @ottimade, Helen Vlahakis @mummascountrykitchen, Annabel Overell @annabel_pauline, Lisa Burdus @roomsbydesign_lisaburdus, Lara Miller @lovewalkeatsee and Sharon Anderson @sharonanderson_